UK cleaning company ‘mines’ for precious metals

20th of August 2013
UK cleaning company ‘mines’ for precious metals

A UK cleaning firm is 'mining' for precious metals on the streets of Britain. And Veolia Environmental Services believes it could find up to one million euros in the UK's rubbish.

The company is sifting through street sweepings in search of valuable materials which are said to be routinely lost or discarded. These include fragments of gold and silver which can rub off jewellery, shoes and clothing along with traces of palladium, platinum and rhodium which are used in catalytic converters and can fall out of exhaust pipes.

Veolia, which sweeps up 165,000 tons of rubbish from the UK's streets every year, has set up Britain's first plant to mine for metal.

"We have always sent our street sweeping to landfill or compost sites in the past, but we wanted to find something to do with this material," said Veolia technical director Richard Kirkman.

"So we are separating everything out with flotation tanks and mechanical sorting machines. We are then left with a fine black dust and have found palladium, rhodium and platinum at similar levels to which they are found in the ore when these materials are mined from the ground.'

Up to 1.5 tons of platinum, 1.3 tons of palladium and 0.8 tons of rhodium could be found every year in the 40 towns and cities where Veolia holds cleaning contracts, the company believes.

Platinum and palladium are both base materials in the manufacture of jewellery while platinum is also used in electronic equipment manufacture and palladium is used in fuel cells.


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